ST. LOUIS – On Monday, hundreds of mourners gathered to Chaifetz Arena in Midtown St. Louis for a memorial service for Demetrious Johnson, a former NFL player and Mizzou football star.

The St. Louis native and McKinley High School grad was passionate about helping others. Johnson played five seasons in the NFL after attending the University of Missouri.

Friends and family say Johnson had a generous heart and will be missed. He died on Christmas Eve of a rare heart condition. Johnson was 61.

“It was a hard time, but he needed to see that other people could take care of him and that he could sit back and trust God,” said daughter Alexandria Johnson.

The man known as “DJ” and “Big Fella” was a mentor and role model for money.

“He did so much in the community and giving back, leaving a huge footprint,” said daughter Ashley Johnson.

Dozens of his former teammates and close friends vowed to continue his legacy.

“A labor of love. DJ put in the sweat in and around St. Louis for over 30 years. It meant a lot, not just for me, but the entire community as a whole,” said Rickey Whittington.

In retirement, he dedicated his time giving back to the community through his foundation. For more than three decades, Johnson’s foundation gave away turkeys to families in need right before Thanksgiving.

“An amazing man and community icon. His death is a loss. I’m just devastated,” said Nate Dixon.

Johnson was organizing up until the end, holding his annual toy drive ahead of Christmas.

“This is a big loss for everyone who knew DJ. A huge loss for St Louis. He was one of a small number of people who made a big difference in St Louis,” said Jeff Rainford.


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